POTSDAM, N.Y. — Yale sophomore Joe Zappala notched his nation-best eighth game-winning goal of the season with three seconds remaining in overtime and Josh Gartner made 41 saves to lift the Bulldogs (11-10, 9-5 ECAC) to a thrilling 4-3 win at Clarkson.
It was fitting that Zappala — who had been frustrated much of the weekend — would net the game winner, eclipsing Jeff Hamilton’s single-season school mark.
“This is a great emotional win for us,” Zappala said. “Personally, I wasn’t playing well this weekend and the puck seemed to be bouncing off of my stick, but I was just happy that I could contribute and do my part.”
The Bulldogs, who defeated St. Lawrence, 5-4, on Friday evening, earned their first road sweep of the North Country squads since the 1985-86 season, catapulting Yale into a third-place tie in the ECAC.
“It was a roller-coaster game, and this is just a pretty plucky bunch of guys,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “The overtime was a double-edged sword, as we wanted to score a goal but that we also didn’t want to lose in overtime.”
For the second consecutive night, Yale’s special teams play paved the path to victory. The Bulldogs — who were outshot 44-17 — scored two shorthanded goals to take a 2-1 lead into the third period. Team captain Vin Hellemeyer, who now has points in seven consecutive games after getting off to a sluggish start, gave Yale the first goal of the game at the 16:00 mark of the opening period.
Down a man, blueliner Jeff Dwyer — who later added a goal of his own — got the puck to Christian Jensen who fed Hellemeyer beautifully for his fifth goal of the season.
The first period, in which Clarkson outshot Yale, 6-5, stood in stark contrast to the remainder of the game. The Golden Knights combined for 35 shots in the final two periods, while Yale mustered a total of eight in the final two frames of regulation, including only two in the third period.
Clarkson tied the game just 2:12 into the second, when Matt Nickerson tallied his first of two goals on the night. Nickerson’s score, coupled with an increased tempo from the Golden Knights, seemed to indicate that momentum was on Clarkson’s side, but Yale’s penalty kill unit came up with its second goal of the night at 7:53.
Ryan Steeves fed Jeff Hristovski for the Yale sophomore’s eighth goal of the year. Hristovski — who has recorded a point in 11 of the last 12 games — and Steeves are both among the top ten in the nation in shorthanded points.
The Bulldogs took a 2-1 advantage into the third period, and padded their lead just 1:40 into the frame. Jensen hit Dwyer on the fly down the left wing and the Bulldog blueliner netted his fourth goal of the season to give Yale a two-goal lead. Clarkson dominated the remainder of the period, getting goals from Jay Latulippe at 13:15 and Nickerson’s second of the night at 19:20 after the Knights had pulled goalie Kyle McNulty (13 saves) in favor of an extra skater.
The Bulldogs controlled the tempo for much of the overtime period, and Zappala connected on his team-leading 16th goal of the year to give Yale it’s seventh consecutive league win. The Bulldogs are now 6-1 in one goal games this season.
Yale hosts Harvard and Brown this weekend at Ingalls Rink in what should be two of the toughest tests the Bulldogs will face all year.
“Our guys know the challenges ahead,” Taylor said. “Nothing else needs to be said. Our archrival and a nationally-ranked team are coming into our building.”